Monday, February 06, 2006

Do Homeschoolers Need Oprah?

In North Carolina, according to the state's Division of Non-Public Education, there are 31,530 home schools educating an estimated 58,780 students. Two of those are my school-age kids.

I haven't watched Oprah in years. Of course, I haven't watched much mainstream TV lately. If I had watched the Super Bowl, it would be the first game I've seen this season. I stick to such as the History Channel, Discovery, TLC, the Food Channel and Fox News. (Okay, I do watch Sci-Fi some - I admit it, I'm a nerd.) Oprah just hasn't been on my radar screen. So she has an essay contest. Homeschoolers love such things as essay contests. There's always word of something like this in which we can participate coming through the local homeschool organizations. I know there's no love lost by a few (tens of thousands of) homeschoolers who can't participate in Oprah's essay contest. However, the homeschool movement has been hardened in the political arena and as a result homeschoolers are inclined to react quickly and with much fervor when they believe they are not being treated justly. This behavior is a rare example of conservatives acting like liberals. Frankly, I don't need Oprah's essay contest for my kids.

Homeschoolers don't generally fit into a tidy political mold, anyway. A year or two ago, the now defunct K-mart in Statesville, NC, had a sale where part of the sales to individual customers went to the school of that customer's choice. The list of qualifying schools was predictably void of any home schools. Nevertheless, homeschoolers went to Kmart in droves and sent their money to the schools that their kids would have gone to willingly and intentionally without complaint. Why? Because homeschoolers, despite mischaracterizations, are not generally separatists. They don't sit around all day disparaging the public schools and shielding their kids from every kind of contact with the outside world. On the contrary, they are generally concerned about the problems in the public schools and are active in getting their kids out of the house and involved in various activities. They just don't think they should subject their kids to the problems in order to correct the problems. Besides, there are good reasons to homeschool even if the public schools were pure as the wind-driven snow.

This said, I'll offer some problems with the public schools and some benefits of homeschooling.

Some Problems with the Public Schools:

1. Politics. Everything from discipline to curriculum is subject to the political winds. Issues contrary to moral laws are being normalized according to political dictates.
2. Discipline. Too may parents, feeling guilty from having put their children off or too proud to admit their children need discipline, loudly protest any punitive action against their disobedient children. This has caused frustration among many teachers that is easily exploited by some students. In general it has led to a codified softening of discipline and a rise in the number of students diagnosed with ADD in order to medicate them into submission.
3. Student crime has grown to alarming levels. There have always been playground bullies, but sociological ills have given rise to a new breed of reprobates. Students are engaging in prostitution at school. security guards and metal detectors are used to try to disarm students as they arrive at school. In a discussion with a public high-school principal I discovered that he is required to report the number of students arrested from his school. So far this year only fifty-something students have been arrested at his school, and that's not a bad number compared to most other schools.

Other problems with public schools can be answered with...
Some Benefits of Homeschooling:

1. Curricula can be individualized to suit the student's needs. Problem areas can be addressed with remediation quickly without loss of credit hours. In the public schools, remediation may not be evident immediately and remediation unavailable until the next term. By the time remediation has happened, the student has fallen behind in requirements.
2. Behavioral patterns are learned from adults. In a classroom setting where children of the same age are lumped together, children learn behavioral patterns from each other more than they learn them from adults. There is an argument that homeschoolers don't get much needed socialization skills being separated from other children their age for much of the time. This is simply not true. Homeschoolers tend to learn to interact with people of many different ages and are better equipped to handle real-life situations because they have no trepidation with intergenerational interaction.
3. Children are better supported in the areas in which they excel. There may be high-level classes available for public schoolers, but only for those students who excel in all areas, and only in areas that are already offered. A homeschooler who is a year behind in his spelling may still work several grades ahead in science, or even take courses outside of systemic crediting (such as logic, philosophy, ancient languages or drafting) that could enhance his major later in college.
4. Children don't have to go through the trouble of learning a new set of teachers and fellow students each year. Learning can begin immediately.
5. There are no snow days and the schedule is flexible.

With all this, who needs Oprah?


Blogger Scott W. Somerville said...

I think you might be missing HSLDA's point in asking Oprah to reconsider. There are hundreds of thousands of black families who desperately need to get their kids out of failing public schools, but who just can't imagine themselves homeschooling. It's an alien concept to them. Asking Oprah to reconsider is a GENTLE way of opening up this subject within the black community.

I've posted a bit about Harper Lee on my blog. Harper Lee is the Alabama author who wrote "To Kill a Mockingbird," which is one of the finest books I know about race in America. Miss Lee insists that the annual "To Kill a Mockingbird" essay contest must include homeschoolers. Her GOOD example, coupled with a little more sensitivity from Oprah, should add up to a strategic advance opportunity for black homeschooling.

Tue Feb 07, 10:59:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Jim Pemberton said...

Good point. Good info.

This brings to mind another area I didn't delve into. Homeschooling requires sacrifice, often financial. My family is not wealthy, but we manage. However, there are homeschoolers in my area that can barely afford a place to live much less a vehicle to drive. Nevertheless, they realize the value of a solid education for their children that they gain. One of these homeschooling families is black. It is a myth held by some that homeschooling parents have to be rich or exceptionally educated. My wife is learning things she never had to learn in public school while teaching our children.

Therefore, if this can open up people who have been closed to the idea of homeschooling, then perhaps we could use an Oprah endorsement.

Tue Feb 07, 02:20:00 PM GMT-5  

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